Larry LaRue: Moment in a boy’s life informs his life as a man

Husband, father and business owner recounts the instant his life changed as a 15-year-old dropout

Staff WriterJune 2, 2014 

Cody Traicoff gets a hug from his wife, Heidi, on Saturday at Salon Halo in Midland. “He’s a wonderful father, a wonderful husband and a good man,” Heidi said.

LUI KIT WONG/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

Life has been good to Cody and Heidi Traicoff since they met in a cosmetology program at Clover Park Technical College in 1996.

They married in 2000, started their own Midland salon in 2004 and began a family in 2008 that now includes three children — Clover, Token and Truce.

That doesn’t mean their lives together have been uncomplicated.

For one thing, when they met, Cody was 17 and serving a 51-month sentence that included juvenile prison and, later, a group home.

As he explained to Heidi, there’d been an accidental shooting when he was 15, and a 13-year-old Lakewood-area boy was killed.

Cody Traicoff was holding the gun.

It’s a tragedy he caused, and one that’s been with him each day for almost 20 years. As it should be, he insisted.

“June 13, 1995,” he said. “There were four or five of us in a trailer where the owners were out of town. I had a 9 mm gun and two bullets. I’d gotten it from a couple because I told them I needed protection.

“We passed the gun around, holding it, aiming it. I loaded and unloaded it, dry-fired it. I took the clip out, at one point, thought I’d cleared the chamber.”

He hadn’t. The boy died instantly. Someone called 911, and Traicoff waited for the ambulance — and the police. He was taken into custody.

A latchkey kid, Traicoff had been removed from his mother’s home as a 3-year-old because of abuse. When he joined his father, they lived with his father’s parents in Idaho.

When his father began living with a woman, that family didn’t last long — Cody’s father was convicted of rape and sent to prison.

“I lived with my stepmom, although I don’t know that she’d ever married my dad,” Traicoff said. “When I was 8, she remarried. I was living with her and her husband until I was 13 and my dad got out.”

They moved to Washington. Soon after he began attending Jason Lee Middle School in Tacoma, Traicoff broke his arm. Left on his own while his father worked long hours at minimum-wage jobs, the boy never returned to that school.

He enrolled at Woodbrook Middle School, was caught carrying a pocketknife and got expelled.

Traicoff wasn’t attending school anywhere at the time of the shooting.

He pleaded guilty to first-degree manslaughter as a juvenile, and the prosecutor recommended a two-year, nine-month sentence. The judge sentenced him to 51 months — five months more than the longest sentence he’d have faced had he been convicted as an adult.

Unfair?

“If I’d been the judge, I’d have done the same thing,” Traicoff said.

Today, Cody and Heidi Traicoff own Salon Halo and work six hours a day, five days a week — alternating their shifts so one can always be home with the kids.

“There’s a sweetness in Cody,” his wife said. “He’s a wonderful father, a wonderful husband and a good man.”

Traicoff will acknowledge only that he tries to be one. The boy he killed — the boy he barely knew — is a big part of that.

He asked that the victim not be identified in print.

“It’s bad enough if his family sees my name. I don’t have the right to use his.”

The boy’s mother appears to have moved out of state. The News Tribune was not able to contact her last week.

“I think about him all the time,” Traicoff said of the boy. “I’d love to do something, to have something in my life honor his.

“He never had the chances I’ve had. He should have, and I think of him every day. He should have grown up, gotten married, had children. I think of all the things his mother has missed over these 20 years.”

Traicoff remembers the victim’s mother approaching him in court, telling him to learn from what had happened. He’s never forgotten that kindness.

“Every year since he died, I say this is the year I contact his parents. I don’t know where they are, but I could probably hire someone to find them,” Traicoff said. “Half of me is afraid to meet them. Half of me is afraid if I did, it would only cause them more pain.”

If there’s a lesson in all this, Traicoff is open to sharing it.

“If you do bad things, bad things will happen — and the chain of events you set in motion impacts people profoundly,” he said. “I’m living proof."

Larry LaRue: 253-597-8638
larry.larue@thenewstribune.com

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